Homily – 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

So my friends, we continue on in Ordinary Time, in these cold, somewhat dark days of winter, with Christmas and related feasts fully behind us.  We personally, always keep some outdoor lights on through the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple, and then, we too, have to move on in our Christian lives, answering some of the same questions that the prophet Isaiah is presented with in today’s first reading:  Whom shall I send?  Who will go for us?  Our God poses these questions to Isaiah and each of us and we should answer them along with Isaiah.  Hopefully, we can respond as he did in today’s first reading: “Here I am, send me!”

   So, why is it important that we see these questions as ours to answer along with Isaiah?  The simple answer my friends, is, that’s what we signed up for, or our godparents did at our baptisms—but then, we each, confirmed their “yeses” at our confirmations. 

   The word, “Christian” is not just a noun, as in a name, but a verb because it demands that we follow in our brother Jesus’ footsteps.  If we don’t at least attempt to face our world as he did, then we can’t claim the name, pure and simple. 

   Paul says as much in his letter to the Corinthians that action follows the name.  He admits that for a time he “persecuted the Church,” but, “God chose him anyway,” the Scriptures say, to be the best God knew he could be!  And Paul gives God, all the credit, “By God’s favor, I am what I am.” 

   And Paul, in effect, says one thing more in the above words.  He lets us know, reflecting on himself, that there isn’t an end to God’s love for each of us or God’s belief in each of us—in what we are capable of giving to our world.

   Our present time in our country and Church leaves many of us discouraged as we don’t see a tone, saying that collectively we truly care about each other.  There are loud cries for personal freedom, regardless of the freedoms of others, who also have needs. 

   The founders of this wonderful country of ours, in our beginning documents, were never intent on the “one” as much as the “all”–“We the people” –they wrote.

   And in our Church, something that Jesus never really instituted, but more so, showed, the right way to live, and never wanted us to categorize life as, dos and don’ts, black and white, but to see more broadly what was needed and taught that we should always, each of us, try and do, “the loving thing.” 

   I think many times, we all stop short of being our best, because it is easier, to do the minimum and I include myself in this.  We see this played out in the gospel message today.  If we see this selection as merely, Jesus performing a miracle—a great catch of fish, then we would be missing the true significance of the event. 

   Yes, there was a “great catch of fish”—but that was just to get his future followers’ attention.  What Jesus was really after, was, for lack of a better way of saying it, “catching” each of them, showing each of them and ultimately, all who would follow, ourselves included, how best to live our one, wonderful life. Whether in our country, or in our Church, it is always best, to live with all the others, besides ourselves, being considered.  To live arrogantly with only ourselves in mind was never what any of us was created for. 

   The huge catch of fish in today’s gospel should signal to us, what great things can happen when Jesus is in our lives.  The call to Isaiah—the call he first heard travels down through history –it was a call that came to Jesus—was heard by him and acted upon.  It is a call to us as well.  It is one that we too must respond to and say, “Here I am, send me!”

   Jesus our human brother knows only too well, the fears that we too walk with.  In today’s gospel he answers those fears— “Do not be afraid.”  Additionally, the gospel today telling of the great catch of fish lets us know that the only way that all the “fish” could be brought in was if they all worked together, sharing their boats, their strength, and their expertise.   None of us manages in this life trying to go it alone either. It has been said, time and again, that the reason COVID and its restraints on our personal freedoms is not over, is because we are not working as a nation to make that so!

  We need each other for hope, for mutual support, for added strength when ours runs low.  At present, we are all praying collectively for the welfare and healing of one of our own—Michael Maher.

   There are many ways to bring “the fish” home and that is why we are all so wonderfully, but differently made.  Our Church, beginning with Pope Francis, is asking us all, to be, “fishers” of all humankind, as we prepare for the 2023 Synod on Synodality. It will only be a success if everyone can be included—can be heard—women as well as men, poor as well as rich, heterosexuals as well as homosexuals, and so forth. There is room in the boat for all!  Jesus’ love incarnate was always about seeing the whole picture of how really big our God’s love is, for each of us, in all our diversity, called to serve and to bring each other home.  Amen? Amen!